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Headphones or monitors: what should you buy first?

April 23, 2019 2 min read

Headphones or monitors: what should you buy first?

Most beginning producers have a big challenge when starting out: how to wisely invest their hard-earned money on gear.

The way I see it, the game is somewhat rigged against you guys. You are lead to believe you need impeccable room acoustics and super high-end monitoring equipment to achieve decent-sounding music.

Wrong.

You don’t need anything. You can achieve incredible mixes on your white iPhone earbuds for all I care, given that you understand their frequency response (what they sound like at each crucial frequency bands).

So my short answer to the question in the title is: headphones. Plain and simple. Oh… and here are 5 reasons why.

 

Price
As I stated in the intro, money is an object for all of us. We can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars on a piece of equipment we will only use partially. Simply put, high-end headphones cost less than a bottom-of-the-line pair of monitors. My AKG K702 cost around US $349 these days, while a pair of Yamaha HS8 speakers cost roughly $880. That’s more than double!

Portability
Once you know a pair of headphones, you can basically take your best mixes anywhere. Producing at a friend’s place with none of your favorite gear or room treated acoustics? No problem. Simply put your headphones in your backpack and you are good to go.

Quietness
We don’t all have the luxury of owning a studio built in a concrete bunker where we can blast music at 120dB for hours on end. When owning a great pair of headphones, you can still disintegrate your ears, playing your beats at ridiculous levels, without anybody noticing. Whether it’s your mom or neighbor, nobody wants to be told to turn it down when that drop finally starts to sound like something.

Precision
Panning is an art form. I take great pride is achieving wide and well-separated mixes. None of this would be possible without being able to reference my mixes in my AKGs. You see, when you listen to music in headphones, your ears are directly connected to the speakers and stereo field. In my experience, there is no better way to find “empty spots” where you can snuggly fit the last elements of your beat.

There is no room
Most of us produce from a tiny corner in our bedrooms or parents’ basement. For this reason, acoustic room treatment usually makes no sense and is an unnecessary overhead cost when starting out. When you use headphones as a primary monitoring source, all these acoustic issues go out the window! There is no need for expensive foam blocks or ugly egg boxes. You get to keep cash and room space for the plugin you have always dreamed of next.


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